What is gut microbiome testing?
Gut microbiome testing gives you insight into the state of your gut health. By identifying specific strains of gut bacteria, you can know if you have a balanced microbial ecosystem, or if you’re dealing with imbalances like dysbiosis, or overgrowth/undergrowth of specific species or strains.
In reality, you have microbiomes all over your body, wherever microbes exist. your skin, mouth, nose and genitals all have microbiomes. But when you hear the term ‘microbiome’, it’s the one in your large intestine.
When it comes to your overall gut health, simple microbiome tests are useful, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg. Knowing the types and levels of microbes that live there is a great start, but more comprehensive tests—usually called ‘gut health tests’— give a bigger window into the goings on of your gut.
In a nutshell, microbiome tests only assess your microbiome. The results will tell you about the bacteria and other microbes that exist in your gut. There are many microbiome tests on the market. While some will only give you very basic information, like your levels of the most common species of bacteria, others will dive deeper, looking for hundreds of types and strains.
Gut health testing
Gut health tests are about a lot more than just bacteria. They give you information on inflammation, immunity, digestive function and a lot more besides. A microbiome test is just that: a test of your microbiome.
When you choose a gut health test provider, it’s important to look at what methods they use, which microbes they look at, and how they explain the findings to you. Also, look at what else they assess: markers for digestive enzymes, inflammation and immune responses are all vital in building a picture of your overall gut health.
Knowing the types and levels of bacteria in your gut is a great foundation to build on. A good gut health test will also give you information on what that means, and how that picture might be contributing to your symptoms. A lot of simple microbiome tests give percentage values for each bacterium, but this isn’t particularly meaningful without looking at how those values compare with each other, and/or as ratios against other microbes in the same family.
Good gut health test reports give:
- Evidence-based explanations for each out-of-range microbe
- A picture of your overall diversity. That means how many different types of bacteria you have.
- Whether you have dysbiosis: an imbalance in bacteria.
- The bacterial ‘phyla’ (families). These are six large phyla of bacteria. A good gut health test will let you know if these are in a healthy range. If one of your bacterial families is out of range, it could be contributing to your symptoms.
- Information on Individual species and strains of bacteria. Some individual strains and species have been found to be especially beneficial. Appropriate levels of the species Lactobacillus, for example, are important for intestinal health.
At IBS Clinics we offer three gut health tests:
We also offer a gut pathogen test that looks specifically for the pathogens that are known to cause gut symptoms: The GI Gut Pathogen Test.
Is Gut Microbiome Testing available in the UK?
Here are your options if you want to get a microbiome test in the UK:
Private clinics for gut health (microbiome) testing
Private clinics in the UK—like IBS Clinics—employ insured health practitioners who can order microbiome tests for their clients. Although many of them bring in new tests and products based on new research, there are some that still rely on microbiome tests using old-fashioned culturing methods. It’s important to make sure that any microbiome test you book through a private UK clinic uses the latest DNA-based testing methods.
Online providers of online gut health testing
There are now many online providers all over the world who will ship a gut health test kit or microbiome test straight to you. You don’t necessarily need to choose one from the UK, although you will probably get your results back quicker if you do.
Tests from online providers vary. While some are backed by science, and are reliable and valid, others are not. Some only test for bacteria and not yeasts or other microorganisms. Most don’t look at digestive function or inflammation markers.
Microbiome testing is a growing market and there are now hundreds of tests to choose from. It’s hard to know which one to choose.
There are many test providers who all call their tests by different names.
If you want insight into your overall gut health, or to find out why you’re suffering from uncomfortable gut symptoms, we recommend the GI-MAP to help you understand what’s going on in your gut.
Is Gut Microbiome Testing available on the NHS?
The NHS doesn’t offer microbiome testing. If a doctor suspects you have a bacterial or parasitic infection, they may send your stool to a lab to look for specific pathogens, like Salmonella or Shigella.
Microbiome tests aren’t diagnostic, so mainstream medicine doesn’t use them. That’s because medical doctors are generally looking for ways to treat diseases in their patients. Microbiome tests don’t diagnose diseases. Instead, health professionals use them to assess gut health and potentially ease the symptoms of disease or prevent it from happening in the first place.
Microbiome testing is always done by stool. While your NHS doctor might ask you for a stool test, they won’t be using it to analyse your microbiome. Stool tests in the UK fall into one of two categories: the type medical doctors use to look for signs of disease, and the type private nutritionists, naturopaths and functional medicine practitioners use to understand what’s going on in your microbiome and the rest of your gut that could be causing your symptoms.
This means that private microbiome testing through a private clinic or an online provider is the only way to assess your microbiome in the UK.
What is the gut microbiome?
The human body contains trillions of microorganisms, called your microbiota, that live within your intestinal tract. These microbes are essential to your overall wellbeing—they help you digest food, produce vitamins, keep harmful pathogens out, and synthesise hormones. But the composition of your microbiome is completely individual, and there is growing evidence suggesting that it plays a role in many diseases, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, inflammatory bowel disease, allergies, asthma, cancer, and even ageing.
A healthy gut microbiome is one that supports good digestion, immunity, and mental health. However, the balance of beneficial versus detrimental microbes can shift due to diet, stress, antibiotic use, and age. This imbalance can lead to inflammation, leaky gut, and other problems.
Gut microbiome testing gives you insight into the state of your gut health. By identifying specific strains of gut bacteria, you can determine whether you have a balanced microbial ecosystem, or you’re dealing with imbalances or an overgrowth/undergrowth of certain species or strains.
How do you test the gut microbiome?
- We send you the test kit.
- You provide a stool sample (full instructions are included with the test, please read instructions through carefully, at least twice, before you begin to collect your samples). Also, please take note of any guidelines on which days of the week you need to send the samples to the lab. Avoid samples sitting in post boxes over the weekend!
How are microbiome gut test results analysed?
- You return your test samples directly back to the lab. You’ll get a pre-paid envelope and information on postage and courier services.
- Wait 7-20 days for test results depending on what test you order.
What happens once you have the results of your gut health test?
- Test results will be emailed to you in PDF format.
- You can book a 30-minute test interpretation session (for review of test results ordered through IBS Cinics only) or you have the option to book a full 60-minute nutritional consultation with one of our nutritionists. Please note that a nutritional consultation will require you signing up as a patient of IBS Clinics and that you complete our clinic intake forms and health questionnaire.
Choosing Your Microbiome Test
The following are a selection of the gut microbiome tests we sell here at IBS Clinics. For all the tests available click here.
This test is ideal if you have symptoms of bloating, flatulence with lots of gas which is not especially smelly, you have had treatment already for SIBO and/or gut dysbiosis, but you still have symptoms, or you have a history of thrush, athletes foot, jock itch or antibiotic use. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list of Candida signs and symptoms. For greater insight, you could download and complete Dr Crooks Candida questionnaire.
This test is ideal if you have symptoms of IBS and you’ve tried the standard advice and medications without any results.
This test is ideal if you have symptoms of bloating, burping, reflux, gassiness, variable bowel habits (diarrhoea, constipation or a mix of the two) or if you have tried other treatments for large bowel dysbiosis or candida without any results.
Food Allergy Test
This test is ideal if you have any of the following symptoms quickly after eating:
- tingling or itching in the mouth
- a raised, itchy red rash (urticaria)—in some cases, the skin can turn red and itchy, but without a raised rash
- swelling of the face, mouth (angioedema), throat or other areas of the body
- difficulty swallowing
- wheezing or shortness of breath
- feeling dizzy and lightheaded
- feeling sick (nausea) or vomiting
- abdominal pain or diarrhoea
- hay fever-like symptoms, such as sneezing or itchy eyes (allergic conjunctivitus)
or if you have tried avoidance of suspected foods, allergens without any results.
Food intolerance Test (IgG)
This test is ideal if you have symptoms of:
- Abdominal pain
- Chronic fatigue
- Sneezing attacks
- Mucus in stools
- Joint pain
- Respiratory problems
- Brain fog
- Runny nose
- Itchy skin
or if you have tried a food allergy test without any useful results.
This test is ideal if you have symptoms of IBS—bloating, variable bowel habits, diarrhoea, constipation or a mix—or if you have tried other tests without any useful results.
This test is ideal if you have symptoms of feeling tired all the time, waking up not feeling rested , fatigue, have difficulty sleeping or if you have tried to rest, improve your diet without any results.
Browse our full selection of tests
Unsure which is the right test for you? Call, email or fill in our contact form to get help from our friendly team